Archive for October, 2010

Giant catch in tiny Nibong Tebal

Posted on October 31, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

(SinChew Daily)

  • Huang has caught a king crab measuring two feet long and weighing 1.9 kilograms. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • The claws of the crab are as thick as a man’s wrists. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

NIBONG TEBAL, Penang: A crab weighing 1.9 kilograms is nothing unusual, but if it is caught from the open sea, then such a size is indeed pretty rare. This is because the number of marine lives caught in the sea has dropped drastically in recent years due to the sophisticated fishing techniques resulting in fewer of them escape the fishermen’s nets.

Huang Zheng Guo, a fisherman in Nibong Tebal, has recently caught a massive king crab measuring two feet long and weighing 1.9 kilograms, setting a record in the history of the sleepy fishing town in southern Seberang Perai.

Set free

The shell of this king crab is as big as a large basin, and its claws as thick as a man’s wrists. According to local residents, the sea near Nibong Tebal is actually not very deep and the crabs caught there seldom weigh more than a kilogram.

37-year-old Huang, who has been a fisherman for the past 20 years, went to the mudflats near the mangrove forest several days ago to catch some crabs and was lucky enough to have come across this giant crab.

Nevertheless, he decided to set it free as he recognised that this type of giant crab is very rare nowadays and he did not want to eat it nor sell it. (Translated by LIM LIY EE/Sin Chew Daily)

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Your 10 questions for S.M. Mohamed Idris

Posted on October 30, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods |

-The Star-

Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris fields the 10 questions posed to him by our readers.

Would you agree that many times, your concrete suggestions for the betterment of Malaysian Society is taken as criticisms of and by the people in power? Kumar, Rawang

Politicians and bureaucrats are only interested in short-term solutions to problems which could have serious consequences to society in the long term. For example, faced with traffic jams, the solution is more roads, flyovers, bridges, tolls but not public transport, cycling, walking, and de-urbanisation. The impact of traffic jams on the environment, people’s health, climate change, resource depletion is of no immediate concern to them.

Also, in almost every country, governments are businessmen-driven and therefore issues concerning ecological and social justice are of little concern. They are focused on economic growth and profits even when they go against the larger interests of society.

Many Malaysians appreciate the time and energy that you spend on matters of consumer interest. But what motivates and inspires you to do this? Bulbir Singh, Seremban

There is so much unnecessary suffering and injustices in the world. Anyone who feels for his fellow human being will be compelled to do something. It is just this simple desire to do something for the betterment of humankind that drives me. We cannot be bystanders and let bad things or deeds continue. It is a basic human instinct in us. As parents, we protect our children. But if we can extend this action to the whole of humanity, I believe the world will be a much better place.

The problem with a lot of people is that they have been desensitised. Others are too caught up with themselves in their chase for a so-called better life. Yet others feel helpless. All deeds start small or are started by an individual or small group of people. All of us can do our bit.

As Gandhi says, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history”. In the end, if we help others, we will help ourselves become better and happier persons.

You have been tirelessly and consistently fighting for all Malaysians, and despite attempts to derail your voice, you have never backed down. Where do you get so much energy? Ananda Jagadev, Seremban

I believe that CAP is an organisation that looks into the interest of every level of society, especially the weak and vulnerable, the voiceless and the oppressed. It is our commitment to society to safeguard and protect the public’s interest. We alert the public and the authorities on problems and issues affecting consumers and try to create public awareness on these issues. The fact that CAP has helped resolve the problems encountered by Malaysian consumers, whether minor or major ones, is a motivating force for me.

You have done a great service to Malaysian consumers and have international recognition for doing so. You must agree that if you are residing in the United States or UK, you would be a hero. Harban Singh, Johor Baru

Firstly, I do not seek any acknowledgment or praise for the work. It is a cause for bringing about change and improvement in society which should not be limited by one’s own desire for fame or self-glorification.

The interest and receptiveness of the Malaysian public of CAP’s work and its contributions are good enough for me. That indicates that the issues raised by us are getting across to many Malaysian consumers.

Honours and recognition are not important. Sometimes they are given for the wrong reasons and people who do excellent work are ostracised instead. Look at the universally respected public intellectual Noam Chomsky and the erudite professor Finkelstein. Both of them have been marginalised and ostracised in the US by the media and the Administration – Chomsky for his trenchant criticism of US foreign policy and Finkelstein, the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, for his brilliant criticism of Zionism, commercialisation of the Holocaust and the state of Israel.

What are CAP’s biggest successes in protecting consumers? Ratnavellu Shanmugam, KL

We may have had more failures than successes, but we don’t allow that to be our obstacle. Failures can become the building blocks for success. Among our notable successes was the formation of the Department of Environment in 1975. It was CAP’s pressure and work on environmental issues that was instrumental to its formation. The Penang Hill project which was cancelled in 1991 following the rejection of its Environmental Impact Assessment by the Department of Environment was another success which helped protect the watershed areas of Penang.

We also successfully fought for the banning of some toxic drugs, the labelling of expiry dates on foods, and a ban on cigarette advertisements. Improved benefits for workers in Socso and EPF and improved protection for tenants and housebuyers were other successes.

But we consider raising awareness among Malaysians on both consumer, environmental and developmental issues to be our biggest achievement. Malaysians who are aware of their rights and problems will go a long way in helping to create a healthy, just and green Malaysia.

Who are you mentoring to follow in your footsteps? Bernard KH Lim, Penang.

There are people in CAP and other sister organisations like Third World Network and Sahabat Alam Malaysia who are being trained to continue and expand the consumer movement. We have also trained many groups around the world on how to build consumer groups and movements in their own countries. They have come from China, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries.

What disturbs you the most about local manufacturers? Tabitha CC Boi, Penang.

Manufacturers are in the business of making profits. CAP is not anti-business but we are against bad business practices. These include businesses which cheat and exploit consumers, those which sell or make unsafe products, or those which displace local communities or pollute our environment.

When their guiding principle is to make as much profit as possible, there needs to be stringent controls and enforcement against unfair trade or contracts and business malpractices.

The problem is not whether the manufacturers are local or foreign. The problem is the lack of adequate laws and enforcement to protect consumers. For example, our food labels have very inadequate health, nutrition and ingredient information. This has partly to do with the strong business lobby here. We have found both foreign and local manufacturers who make different local and export versions of a similar product, the local ones being inferior because the law here allow them to be so. This applies to foods, vehicles and a whole range of other products.

Over the years I have heard comments from people that if we were to follow everything that the Consumer Association of Penang says, then we cannot consume anything! What are your comments on this? Pastor Philip Emmanuel, Seremban

We hear the comment often enough and we are glad that you are one of those who take our information seriously. There are consumers who refuse to read our information or have already made up their minds even without reading our articles. We always ask these detractors whether they have read our side of the story before coming to a conclusion and the answer is often a “no”.

We cannot force people to read our stuff or follow our advice. But we will offer it to those who care to read them and there are many such people out there who take our message very seriously. We have a doctor asking us about whether the catheters they use are made from PVC and there was a parent who threw away all the carbonated drinks in his fridge after reading our booklet on soft drinks. And it is the many calls like these that keep us going. Change in personal behaviour and attitude is a very difficult task and there are many of us who live in denial.

Since its establishment, CAP has never joined the consumer umbrella organisation Fomca. Any reasons for this? How does CAP feel about consumer protection activities carried out by Fomca and the Domestic Trade, Consumer Affairs and Cooperatives Ministry to date. Ratnavellu Shanmugam, KL

The ministry has stated that despite 20 years (it was set up in 1990), consumer awareness among consumers is only about 50%.

Since its formative years, CAP has taken up issues that are extremely far and wide. It is not merely concerned over issues related to the complaints or consumption of products.

Our concerns and interests are much more than that – on consumer culture and lifestyle, wasteful consumption, basic needs, environmental degradation, unsafe products, occupational safety and financial prudence and literacy.

In Malaysia there has never been a need to have to work within an umbrella body to get your voice heard on public interest matters. Having said that Fomca has certainly been voicing the concerns of the public and has been constructive in its role as an umbrella consumer body. Although awareness of consumer issues might not be up to our expectations we have to nevertheless keep soldiering on since we are against powerful profit-driven forces which often act against consumer interests.

Consumerism in any nation will depend on the level of education, maturity and a laissez faire political and consumer environment. Do you agree? Harban Singh, Johor Baru

On the contrary. With a laissez-faire political and consumer environment, the consumer movement may have a tougher time.

Market forces and powerful corporate interests together with their advertising machinery would carry the day if consumers are not aware or organised.

And consumer issues are becoming more obscured and difficult to understand or articulate with the advent of modern technologies in the fields of food, health, communications or medicine. For example, nanotechnology, stem-cell research, genetically engineered foods and organisms, electro-magnetic radiation, etc. Authorities around the world are facing problems in regulating these new technologies. And corporations are pushing these new frontiers touting only the benefits, with little regard to safety, health or environmental issues.

In the end, those with financial clout (and with it, political muscle) would be able to weigh down on issues, risking the failure of protecting the interests of society as a whole.

As for consumerism being dependent on the level of education and maturity, that alone would not improve on awareness of consumer-related issues. Despite having high education levels, many are still vulnerable to the various problems such as financial scams, defective products, misleading advertising, environmental problems.

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Nuclear energy an option for Singapore, say experts

Posted on October 29, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

-TodayOnline.com-  But standard plant will be too large for country, says one power company CEO
SINGAPORE – Nuclear energy will most likely be one of Singapore’s future means of power generation, said industry leaders yesterday at a roundtable discussion at the Singapore International Energy Week.

Noting that Malaysia has decided to build it’s first nuclear power plant by 2021, Sembcorp Industries executive vice-president Ng Meng Poh said nuclear energy “is inevitable”. The question, he said, is how to create a robust system for Singapore.

PowerSeraya chief executive John Ng said a standard nuclear plant will be too large – and produces too little energy – for Singapore and the country has to adopt different nuclear technology from that of its neighbours.

A standard nuclear plant produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity but Singapore’s peak demand is 6,000, he said. He added that the nuclear options in South-east Asia are at an early stage and it is unclear if the countries will pursue the power option of nuclear energy as a region or individually.

The Economic Strategies Committee recommended in its February report that, in the medium term, the Government should consider coal and electricity imports to diversify energy sources. It also recommended the Government study the feasibility of nuclear energy.

Safety, though, is an issue. In April 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine exploded, killing two workers. Another 28 people died weeks later due to acute radiation poisoning. Many others living in the area were also affected.

Singapore had assembled a team of experts in April to study the option of using nuclear energy here eventually.

Currently, 15 per cent of the world’s power comes from nuclear energy and this number is expected to go up, said the PowerSeraya CEO.

“There are not many new sources of energy. Renewable energy will be big but extremely unlikely to take over power generation,” he added.

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Nod for Malaysia’s first nuclear power plant likely soon

Posted on October 27, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

-The Star- KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet is set to give its green light to build the country’s first nuclear power plant by 2021 as stipulated in the recently unveiled Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), but the choice of location remains a secret.

“The Cabinet has more or less agreed that nuclear power is an option,” Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui said at a question and answer session after delivering his keynote address at the ABB Executive Forum yesterday.

He explained that the Government was deliberately looking at nuclear power as an option not only to meet Malaysia’s growing electricity demand post-2020, but also to further diversify the country’s energy mix as well as to ensure future energy security.

“It is very important for us to have a balanced power-generation mix to ensure reliability and security of supply to the people,” Chin explained.

He pointed out that Malaysia was presently “far too dependent on fossil fuels” for power generation, with 95% of the country’s power plant being fuelled by gas (58%) and coal (37%).

According to the ETP handbook, the Nuclear Power Development Steering Committee was already studying the possibility of delivering a twin-unit nuclear power plant with a total capacity of two gigawatts. The first unit is expected to be operational by 2021.

The plan laid out a development timeline of 11 to 12 years from pre-project commissioning.

“But we need to remember to sensitise the nation towards about what it means to deploy nuclear as a power source,” Chin conceded.

He added that his ministry was actively preparing the groundwork and engaging the public and educating them about the pros and cons of having nuclear power in the country.

“Our people have to accept the source without any fear of its traditionally (perceived) risks,” he said.

When asked about the choice of location of the proposed nuclear plant, Chin stressed that it was still a “P&C” (private and confidential) matter due to public sensitivity with regards to nuclear power.

On the cost of the nuclear plant, he said it was still early to talk about it. He expects the initial capital expenditure to be substantial but the operational cost, going forward, “to be quite manageable”.

According to the ETP handbook, building the twin-unit nuclear plant would require an investment of RM21.3bil up to 2020.

On the sale of the 2,400 MW Bakun hydroelectric dam to Sarawak government, Chin clarified that his ministry was not involved in the negotiation, as the Bakun dam was owned by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) through its wholly-owned subsidiary Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd.

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Coal-plant reprieve in 2011 budget

Posted on October 26, 2010. Filed under: Climate Change |

By Queville To

KOTA KINABALU: The 2011 budget appears to be another nail in the coffin of the proposed coal-fired power plant on a beach-front in Lahad Datu.

But the government is keeping mum on the plant, whose environment impact assessment was rejected earlier this year in an embarrassing blow to its government-linked proponents.

The coal plant which stirred a fire-storm of protests in the state however is still on the minds of the coalition of anti coal-plant NGOs, Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future).

They have urged the government to come clean on the status of the plant and on the plans for clean electricity production on the eas coast of the state.

The request from Green SURF comes two months after the federal Department of Environment (DOE) rejected the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) report for the 300 megawatt project.

Green SURF spokesman Wong Tack said the coalition was still waiting for a decision on whether the project will continue.

“We would like to know the stand of the authorities, in particular the Sabah government. Green SURF wrote to the Sabah government over three weeks ago, but we have yet to get feedback.

“We hope the state government will take a stand based on the importance of the east coast of Sabah as a marine habitat. A huge amount is now being invested for activities in these areas, including through the national Budget for 2011,” he said in a statement issued here Monday.

Wong said there was still anxiety over the proposed plant.

“The public is asking for the state to focus on developing energy from renewable and green sources,” Wong said.

He said that while the power shortage problem in Sabah was still serious, time had been wasted on pushing for a controversial power plant, which has already been shifted three times.

Expedite projects

Green SURF has also received indirect support from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who spoke recently on the need to make a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as a way to create a firm foundation for a greener economy.

Wong said the Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan and a dedicated statutory body called the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA Malaysia), must get to work quickly.

He said the construction of a 300-megawatt Combined-Cycle Gas Power Plant in Kimanis as announced in the recent budget must be expedited to increase electricity generation to meet rising demand.

The budget also listed pioneer status and investment tax allowance for the generation of electricity from renewable sources and energy efficiency activities to be extended until Dec 31, 2015.

It further listed the implementation of a tariff mechanism under the Renewable Energy Act to allow electricity generated by individuals and independent providers to be sold to electricity utility companies.

“This is not the time to just talk, but to do something. We are glad that better feed in tariffs are being considered for implementation.

“Such initiatives are needed for investors to take up renewable energy projects.

“The Government has to make it attractive for the private sector to play a role in developing green energy,” Wong said.

Green SURF comprises the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) of which Wong is president, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), WWF-Malaysia, Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) and the Malaysian Nature Society (Sabah branch).

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Planters need to do more checks to prevent forest fire and haze

Posted on October 26, 2010. Filed under: Forestry/Wetlands |

-The Star- Commodities Talk- by Hanim Adnan

THE recurring forest fire in the oil palm concession area of Sumatra causing massive haze and air pollution has certainly added another issue to Western environmental NGOs.The 200 hotspots detected, mostly in the province of Riau, is said to be Indonesia’s highest rate of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from land use.

No doubt anti-palm oil lobbyists and green activitists are having a field day over this latest turn of event while Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, is trying its best to contain the hotspots.

While Malaysian oil palm growers symphatise with the plight of their peers in Indonesia, some have voiced out their concern over the spillover effect from the forest fire to Malaysia, which is the world’s second-largest oil palm producer.

There were concerns that oil palm planters in Malaysia might again be labelled by Western NGOs for being equally irresponsible – by resorting to open burning as a short-cut method to clear land for oil palm cultivation.

In the past, some Malaysian plantation companies with big operations in Indonesia had been accused as culprits to forest burning in the republic.

It is important to note that oil palm plantation companies and even smallholders in Malaysia had been adopting zero-burning policy for quite sometime.

In Malaysia, even though the Government had strictly imposed a ban on open burning in 1998, the practice of land clearing for oil palm sector by clean-burnt method has been largely replaced by no-burn method from 1993.

The idea was initiated in 1989 when large Malaysian plantation companies began developing zero-burning technology because of their own environmental concerns.

Many had come to realise that apart from preserving the environment, no-burn land clearing added benefits through nutrient recycling, soil improvement, faster plantation establishment and cheaper cost.

In addition, the zero-burning method was in response to persistent haze back in1990s that peaked in late 1997. Since 1998, a stricter regulation carrying a hefty maximum fine of RM500,000 were imposed on open-burning offenders.

On the other hand, perhaps one lesson learnt from the recurring forest fire in Indonesia is that local oil palm players should continue to double their efforts in surveillance to avoid similiar mishaps from happening in their estates, given the global climate change.

Another suggestion would be to encourage more environmental NGOs to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) grouping to familiarise themselves with the strict sustainability criteria imposed on plantation companies wanting to be certified as sustainable palm oil producers.

Currently, whether or not faced with constant pressure from the NGOs, more oil palm plantation companies and countries, including Malaysia, have allocated funds to protect the endangered wildlife habitats and preserve the forest for the sake of the environment.

  • Deputy news editor Hanim Adnan believes it will be an ongoing battle between oil palm companies and NGOs when dealing with environmental issues.
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    Nuclear Energy One Of Ten EPPs, Says Idris

    Posted on October 25, 2010. Filed under: Energy |

    (Bernama) — The proposal to use nuclear energy is included as one of the ten Entry Point Projects (EPPs) under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

    Minister in the Prime Minister Department, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, said the government included this because the country relied heavily on fossil fuels.

    “As we move forward, we have to look into different renewable energy like biomass and biogas,” he told reporters after the launch of the ETP: A Roadmap for Malaysia by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak here Monday.

    Idris said there was a need for an in-depth deliberation on safety in the use of nuclear energy.

    “The government is already in discussions with other countries that have gone through this path. Learn the lesson from other country and at the same engage and discuss with states where the the plant is likely to be sited.

    “We are not going to start digging now and there should not be a short cut in establishing the nuclear power as renewable energy,” he said.

    Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui had recently said the government has approved the construction of a nuclear power plant which was expected to start operation by 2021 to meet the country’s power demand in the future.

    Chin said that using nuclear to generate power was inevitable as the use of coal and gas to generate power could no longer meet the country’s energy demand, given that the resources were depleting.

    “There is also limited land where dams could be built for the operations of hydro power plants,” he said.

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    Mud-like deluge not linked to natural disasters

    Posted on October 25, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

    -The Sun- GEORGE TOWN (OCt 25, 2010): Fishermen need not worry about the mysterious mud-like deluge hitting the seas off Butterworth as it is not linked to any imminent natural disaster.

    The deluge of mud – which started about 10 days ago and had increased in scale since – was probably due to the dredging works for the deepening of the north channel.

    “The good news is that it was not due to continued earthquakes and volcanic activity in Sumatra or the tremors in the Nicobar islands as we have already checked with the meteorological department on this,” said state environment, health, welfare and caring society committee chairman Phee Boon Poh.

    Phee also said some fishermen reportedly saw the barges from the dredging works dumping sludge near Kendi Island when they were only allowed to dump the sludge about 6km off Muka Head on the north-western tip of Penang island.

    “The Environment Department will continue to investigate the source of this phenomenon and it will also be taking samplings of the water and the fish there to ensure that everything is okay there,” he said.

    The department will come up with a conclusive report on the issue in one to two days’ time.

    theSun had reported that the entire section of the sea, about 150m into the sea from the beach, off Pantai Bersih in Butterworth has turned brownish-green.

    It is learned that the deluge started about 10 days ago.

    Local inshore fishermen have reportedly noticed a lot of dead fish floating in the waters in that area since the incident.

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    Malacca runs ‘solar trishaws’

    Posted on October 23, 2010. Filed under: Energy, Environment and Livelihoods |

    -Asia One-

    MALACCA, Malaysia – Embracing green technology in its tourism industry, the state government yesterday launched the country’s first “Solar Trishaw” to attract more green tourists.

    The trishaw, which can be ridden like a motorcycle with electric-powered mechanism, was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam at the Hang Jebat Sports Complex here yesterday.

    State Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Seet Har Cheow said the new product was introduced to attract more tourists to Malacca, and promote the importance of nature preservation at the same time.

    “This solar powered trishaw is the first to be introduced in Malaysia. Besides making it easier for the trishawmen to make their living, the state will also benefit from the green image we are promoting.

    “By introducing more green technology in our tourism industry, we can attract more tourists.

    “This technology will also help the trishawmen to earn more as they are able to go further and take more trips,” he said after the launching ceremony yesterday.

    The ceremony also saw Mohd Ali launch an electric car imported from China to be used off-main roads for tourism purposes.

    It was learnt that the car will be used to ferry tourists in parks and gardens as it still had not received approval from the Road Transport Department to be used on the roads.

    Meanwhile, HNH Technology Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zainoor Hashim said the company cooperated with the state government’s subsidiary company ICM Industries Corporation Bhd in supplying the trishaws.

    He said the company had invented the solar powered trishaw in three different power levels — 1,000W, 750W and 500W.

    “The trishaw with 1,000W solar panel costs between RM4,000 (S$1,600) and RM5,000, the 750W costs from RM3,000 to RM4,000 and RM3,000 for the 500W.

    “The trishaw’s battery only needs to be charged for three hours, and can last as long as 12 hours. It can be ridden at between 15 to 20km per hour.

    “With this invention, the trishawmen now can work longer hours in a more comfortable manner, and of course, at longer distance.”

    Zainoor said efforts were being made by the state government to promote the new technology to trishaw enterpreneurs in Malacca.

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    Indonesia fires anger Singapore, Malaysia

    Posted on October 23, 2010. Filed under: Pollution |

    (UPI) — Indonesia said it is working to put out forest fires raging in the Riau province, attributed to slash and burn agricultural methods.

    Nearby Singapore and Malaysia have complained of the smoky haze coming from the fires, Voice of American reported Saturday.

    “Singapore tends to make noise quickly if pollution levels even slightly exceed tolerable standards, even though this is still common in Indonesia,” Indonesian Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said: “Certainly, we will send the necessary resources in terms of manpower and equipment to deal with the fire, but we also have to take into account the geographical situation on the ground might be quite difficult.

    “This is happening in the middle of a forest. That may hamper some of the efforts being taken,” he said.

    Voice of America said a two-year moratorium on burning permits in Indonesia has been imposed, but has yet to take effect.

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